Summer is always a time where students splurge on things that they don’t always particularly need but definitely want and I was no different. This year I decided to spend my money on a fabulous holiday away to Morocco where I saw the colours and smells that I had been dreaming of since I left Uganda.
I tried to make this guide short and sweet for you all however there was just too much to talk about. Therefore this is my guide to Marrakesh and the rest of Morocco will come to you soon.
Morroco is a country that you can reach by air or boat, only if you know the right people. Sadly, I didn’t know the right people to get the chance to sail from Spain however my flights were so cheap it didn’t matter. With a simple three – or four – hour flight I landed in the centre of Marrakesh to start my adventure. At the airport you should make sure you aren’t charged any more than 300 dirham for the taxi to the Jamaa El Fna because the drivers will try to rip you off so be prepared.
Seen as I was budgeting I stayed in a hostel however I would definitely recommend this form of accommodation to anyone. I arrived at the hostel with my friend and bag in tow and was astounded by the colour, kindness and homeliness the hostel had to offer. I stayed in Riad Dia and was hosted by the kind Layla and Senna who were there to answer any questions I had – which were a lot. Riad Dia is not the only hostel in the centre of Marrakesh, in fact there are hostels dotted all over Morocco charging no more than £6 a night.
Of course if you are looking for a Romantic place to stay or you just don’t fancy a hostel, Marrakesh is full of small Riads with rooms to rent or majestic hotels. I took it upon myself to do some research of the hotels around the centre of Marrakesh just in case any of you readers wanted to stay somewhere fancy. This obviously meant I had to spend a whole day by the pool at the Jardin De Koutoubia, lounging and trying their delicious food – I don’t want anyone to be disappointed after all.
Jamaa El Fna
The Jamaa El Fna is worth going to Marrakesh for alone. The inter-twining streets that you will get lost in even if you have a map are filled with more colour and smells than you could care to imagine. The centre of the square is open and pretty calm through the day with only a few orange carts lining the streets. However at night the place comes alive. Suddenly the square is filled with stalls selling Aragan oil, fez’s, food and more – you can literally get everything you want in that square.
However the square does have it’s faults with pick pocketers everywhere and angry henna ladies who will chase you until they can paint you and then demand money whether you want it or not. There is also the unpleasant sight of street children begging for money and trying to sell you tissues along with the drugged (charmed) snakes and chained monkeys forced to do tricks in the beating sun. Be aware when you go into the square that people will force the animals onto you and then demand money, again.
The souks in Marrakesh are unbelievable – that is if you can find them. Firstly you need to be able to get there which means going through the Jamaa El Fna but once you get there it is spectacular. The smells and colours are bigger and better than those in the market as the spices are piled high above you.
The beauty reminded me of Aladdin and all the markets he would steal from however no need to steal as the spices are so cheap and some of the tenders are kind enough to provide you with a little taster, tea or freebie if it is a good day. Don’t shy away from them when they tell you things either as they tend to be really friendly and just in need for a little chat.
Of course I shopped. I found a clothes market in rural Uganda so there was no way I would miss such a fabulous opportunity. With the stalls lined with designer handbags and traditional jewels I was in awe everywhere I went. However it is a good idea to steer clear of the fakes as they aren’t always the best quality and the sellers can get quite angry if you don’t buy.
Instead, head into the leather bags stores, don’t forget the shoes and heaven forbid you leave without a hand of Fatima. Enjoy the chat from the people in the shop but remember to play hard to get with your money and go for a third of the price, at least. If they aren’t budging, don’t worry because somebody else is bound to have something similar and will no doubt give you it for a great price.
The cultural bit
Marrakesh is filled with beautiful mosques and palaces which you must visit. The Koutoubia mosque stands tall in the middle and is a great tower to know where you are. Although you can’t enter the Koutoubia, you are welcomed to walk around the gardens and see the beautiful fruit trees.
If you do walk through the grounds you should also visit the stunning La Mamounia hotel where Winston Churchill still has a suite. These gardens are filled with stunning flowers and the grounds seem endless.
Along with the palaces and gardens, you should make time to visit the Ben Youseff Medersa which is where people used to go to learn how to read the Quran. The intricate details decorating the place are stunningly breath taking as every nook and cranny has been carved and detailed. The museum is only along the road as are the tanneries where you can learn what it is really like when leather is made. A guide will show up and accept the mint but don’t pay as much as he asks. My friend and I only paid 5 dirham for the tour.
What to wear
This is travel and fashion after all, plus what to wear in Marrakesh is important. Although you will see people going round in short shorts and dresses it is still a tradition to cover up which is why you won’t see many women without burkas on. You might feel silly going round in a long skirt next to people who are in their cute body con dresses but I assure you, you will be respected more and probably receive more “fish and chips!” compliments.